- The Washington Times - Friday, March 30, 2007

ANNAPOLIS — The House gave preliminary approval yesterday to a bill that would enable Maryland to bypass the Electoral College by giving the state’s 10 electoral votes for president to the winner of the national popular vote.

House Minority Leader Anthony J. O’Donnell, Southern Maryland Republican, tried to amend the measure to set up a commission to study the idea. He said the bill had major ramifications that have not been thoroughly explored and that it would be a mistake to rush into changing a key part of the country’s political system.

“There is no hurry here,” said Mr. O’Donnell. “What’s the hurry?”

However, his amendment was rejected by a 58-76 vote.

Maryland would be the first state to support the change. House Majority Leader Kumar P. Barve, Montgomery County Democrat, said Maryland had an opportunity to get other states thinking about the change as well.

“We will be free to change our minds if we wish to, but the very fact that we are going first means that we are starting a serious national discussion,” Mr. Barve said.

The Maryland Senate already has voted for the change.

Other states also are considering the idea as a way to avoid a scenario where a candidate wins the most votes nationwide but loses the election, as Democrat Al Gore did in 2000.

National Popular Vote supporters say they have legislative sponsors in 46 states and have introduced legislation in 22.

The plan would take effect only after enough states representing a majority of the nation’s 538 electoral votes adopted it. That makes it extremely unlikely that the plan would take effect for next year’s presidential election, a point Delegate Christopher B. Shank, Washington County Republican, said was reason enough to put it off.

“So that tells us that we’ve got at least until 2012 to pass this bill,” Mr. Shank said.

Opponents also argued that the current Electoral College system benefits smaller and midsized states. North Dakota and Montana rejected the idea last month.

California lawmakers adopted the measure last year, though Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed it. The idea remains alive in other states. The Arkansas House voted last week to award that state’s six electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote.

Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, a Democrat, has not taken a position on the idea, O’Malley spokesman Rick Abbruzzese said.

Under the present system, voters decide to support slates of “electors.” The electors then meet to choose the president. The Electoral College has 538 members. A candidate needs a majority of 270 votes to be elected.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide